TL; DNR- See Brian’s October 2018 Hoops Hello. In the game that I review he showed he has offensive skills and he has another year to grow and improve these already impressive offensive skills. Defense is ok and needs work but who doesn’t at the high school level. His coach says this kid has a great work ethic. I think Coach B has found another NW Ohio Gem to follow Simpson if that D comes along.
I am always pleased when I see that UM is recruiting one of our local NW Ohio basketball players. I remember when the board was concerned about Xavier Simpson’s size but I had seen him play very well against very large human beings when he was at Lima Senior and regularly ate the lunch of those playing against him in our most competitive NW Ohio big school league. I was surprised to hear that we had recruited a young man named Zeb Jackson as he was playing in a local small school conference. There was a nice article about the young man in the Blade this week. (https://www.toledoblade.com/sports/spotlight-athlete/2019/01/18/zeb-jackson-maumee-valley-male-spotlight-athlete-michigan/stories/20190117037) The article inspired me to see if I could catch the next game. I called a buddy who had the local cable service that was showing high school games and he was happy to have me come over to watch the game with him.
Jackson’s team, Maumee Valley Country Day was going to play Cardinal Stritch and they were tied for the lead in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference at 3 and1 each in conference. Stritch had the best record overall at 11 and 2 going into the game. This is a small school (about 500 total students) conference in Northwest Ohio. MVCD is a private college prep school in south Toledo with high tuition and some limited scholarships based on income. Many students are from wealthy and professional families and almost all graduate and go on to college. Stritch is a small Catholic school in Oregon, Ohio which is the eastern suburb of Toledo. When we put the game on I was surprised to see a face that I knew. It was Zeb’s coach, Rob Conover. I have been playing basketball myself for about 60 years. At age 69, I still play pick up ball at the YMCA/JCC in Sylvania, Ohio on Sunday mornings against guys who are younger than the T shirts I wear to play. Over a decade ago, I used to play with and against Rob after he graduated from high school in Sylvania. This was the first time I can remember seeing him for about a decade. He apparently graduated from the U of Toledo and then ran Sylvania’s adult sports programs for a while and now is the athletic director and basketball coach for Maumee Valley.
I was hoping to see lots of Zeb’s game, but this game was a pretty much a beat down by Cardinal Stritch as they won 80 to 49. They made lots of driving layups and generally showed that they were deeper, quicker and more physical than the Maumee Valley team and the Cardinal Stritch coach had a great defensive plan that bottled up Jackson for much of the game. He only scored nine points. (The previous game he scored 37 in a one point loss to my home team, Ottawa Hills which is just up the street. Ottawa Hills is ranked as one of the top three academic public schools in Ohio. They educated my three kids well enough for all three to enter and graduate from the U of M as out of state students much to the distress of my pension plans. I was out of town and I did not get a chance to see that game). Stritch double teamed him just outside half court anytime he was bringing the ball up the floor then someone face guarded him body to body to prevent him from getting the ball back once he had given it up for most the game. So, on limited evidence, I can vouch that he has skills
On Offense: Despite the pressure, he made some nice passes to get the ball up the floor to an open man but his team mates for the most part could not exploit these openings. He had several good drives up the floor with the ball when he had single coverage. On these couple of occasions where they did not double him, he drove to the hoop and either kicked it for out to a teammate for a bucket or he made a coast to coast layup. He had several nice passes even while off balance under pressure but he did try to force one inside pass that lead to a turnover. He also forced up a couple shots against the persistent double teams he was facing all night. There did not appear to be a plan to run him off picks to get him open.
He has the ability to handle the ball and drive to the hoop. He got bumped a lot and the physicality made him stall a couple times and once he missed a layup after contact and did not get the foul that should have been called. He’s kind of a skinny guy so not surprised at this. On one inside driving move, he had a nice shift of hands in the air to make the space for a layup with other hand to score. He had one nice step back three and another nice shot was off a crossover dribble to a hanging mid-range jumper that he made. That was it. He was pretty much kept out of the offense by the defensive plan and the 4 on 4 contest that occurred otherwise was no contest. This game for me pretty much confirms the info that was on Brian’s October 2018 Hello Hoops post about Zeb. I will see if I can get to another game or two but the excitement about this young man comes from his AAU performances where he is surrounded by players with similar high levels of skill.
Defense: He moves his feet pretty well and seems to see the floor well on D enough to help at times. On occasion, he lost focus on defense and did not make a switch when needed and/or pick up a cutting player. The players that he was guarding often stayed well away from the key so he did not get much D rebound action or get to help much on the drives to the hoop that scored for Stritch over and over. Maumee Valley never went to a zone to try and stop these driving layups but Stritch has lots of good 3 point shooters too so pick your poison. So thin evidence to share about his D at this time but I will see if I can pick up another game or two live or on cable and post about what I see. He’s a junior has another year to develop and grow. Here’s a quote from the Blade article- “Some kids will come in here if the gym is open and they'll just kind of goof around,” Conover said. “He's pro-like when it comes to his workouts. He knows exactly what he needs to get better at.” That work ethic already has paid off for the junior guard. Jackson committed to Michigan in the fall ahead of the Hawks’ season and said he is happy to have his college choice already made. I suspect Coach Beilein has found another gem in NW Ohio and we will be happy with that choice as well.